The Sheppard sisters of Brooklyn have not had an easy life. Their father abandoned the family nearly 10 years ago. Their older half brother was shot dead in the middle of the street over a perceived insult. And with just their mother, Tonia Handy, to provide for the family with a job answering phones for a car service, the three sisters are forced to sleep in the same bed as their mother in a homeless shelter in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bed-Stuy) neighborhood.
For most young girls, survival would be the focus. For the Sheppard sisters, it’s all about Junior Olympics gold.
The three sisters — 11-year-old Tai Sheppard, 10-year-old Rainn and 8-year-old Brooke — have all qualified for the 2016 Junior Olympics in multiple events. According to the Associated Press’ Ezra Kaplan, the three elementary schoolers have been running for the Brooklyn-based Jeuness Track Club since early 2015. Now, less than 18 months later, they’re each competing for a gold medal. Tai runs the 400 and 800, as well as the 80-meter hurdles. Her sister Rainn qualified for the 3,000-meter run with a time of 10 minutes, 44 seconds, the best qualifying time by some 30 seconds. Brooke will compete in the 800, the 1,500 and the high jump.
A medal for any of the three sisters in any event would be a remarkable achievement, particularly so early in their respective track careers. Still none of the sisters or their mother are losing sight of the larger goal of what they can gain from the sport. After all, there are potential college scholarships at the end of the rainbow.
“This is a means to get them to college,” Handy told the AP. “To opening doors that maybe I can’t open for them.”
There are many more impressive details from the Sheppard sisters’ rather remarkable journey in Kaplan’s terrific piece right here. Trust us: it’ll be hard not to cheer for the sisters after reading it.